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Welcoming President Biden

Posted on by Dr. Francis Collins

On December 2, President Joe Biden visited NIH for a briefing on the importance of vaccines and booster shots. They remain vital this holiday season to slowing the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, the cause of COVID-19, and saving lives. It was my honor to greet the President, though with a careful fist bump, and I got to speak with him briefly before he delivered his remarks about the White House’s strategy for fighting COVID-19 this winter. Credit: NIH


  • Steve White says:

    About handling the epidemic:
    1. Soon after President Biden took over, he changed the travel rules, supposedly making them stricter, but in my view they were still inadequate – travelers were to get SARS 2 tests shortly before flying, and then “isolate” themselves after arrival.
    No one flies across the world to isolate themselves, so clearly that was not going to happen, and there was no verification apparatus put in place – 100% “Honor System” – of course that failed completely. (since it was a key part of the protocols, IF I am wrong, CDC should have stats to show most travelers complied, ie, proof they stayed in hotel rooms for a couple weeks – and if they do not have data, that by itself shows they did not monitor their own program)
    Besides being honor system in the US, it appears it was honor system overseas – a person with a ticket went to the airport with “proof” of a very recent negative test – but it’s not clear they could not forge the test results – or that the US had any vetting process for the labs to begin with – someone might print up some letterhead and then put that in the printer to make a negative test.

  • Steve White says:

    2. Another policy topic: we had vaccines for SARS 2, good ones, in March and April 2020, from Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech
    We could have given volunteers the vaccines, then after checking for antibodies, infected them deliberately.
    This would have told us if they were efficacious, if they were very dangerous in the short term, and if they caused Antibody Dependent Enhancement, all in a few months – and, not seeing any immediate big danger, we could have let people at very high risk take them starting in Summer 2020 . Even with low production at first, many millions probably would have been vaccinated by the winter surge – the folks at very high risk at least – and some large number of those people would have been saved from infection. – I mean, I do not like to be so blunt – but that seems almost certain now.
    The FDA has been intensely criticized for many years for not approving drugs when the people to whom they would be given are already at high risk and it is worth taking a chance – this seems to have been a situation where taking even extreme risks with some volunteers was well worthwhile – the KNOWN – it is important to emphasize – the KNOWN bad effects of the epidemic in the US were far, far worse than anything that would happen in the worst clinical trial – but no one did what needed to be done, which was order human challenge trials take place.
    We need to ensure this mistake is not repeated – but there is no indication Biden is working on that.

  • Andrew Goldstein says:

    It is encouraging and reassuring to see the President of the United States show support and respect for and interaction with NIH, the world’s great federal institution for scientific research and cooperation.

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